What I Read in 2015 (Non-fiction)

2015-12-30_002 It's time! Time for my favorite post of the year when I share the books I read and (hopefully) also get recommendations from all of you as to new titles to add to my 2016 t0-read pile. After I posted last year's list I shared I wanted to read more non-fiction this year. I did just that. (I'll post my fiction list tomorrow.)

This year I adjusted my rating system to be the same as Goodreads so the rating corresponds. Which reminds me, I'd love to connect with you over on Goodreads!

Notes from The Tilt-a-Whirl: Wide Eyed Wonder at God’s Spoken World by N. D. Wilson**** A unique (and maybe abnormal?) book for sure. Wasn't sure if I was going to be able to get through it in the beginning. It took me some time to track with the author's writing style. Each chapter was something of an essay: poetic, philosophical, sarcastic, with lots of literary references (which I enjoyed). I came to really enjoy the book and appreciate the style with which it was written. It was a stretching book to read in terms of style.

The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller***** One of the best and most insightful books on marriage I've read.

Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes by Shauna Niequist**** I really loved the themes of food and community in this book. This was the first book by Niequist I've read and I look forward to reading more because I love her style.

Own Your Life: Living with Deep Intention, Bold Faith, and Generous Love by Sally Clarkson*** This books wasn't quite what I envisioned when I bought it, but it was still good. Some chapters spoke to me more than others. I do love Clarkson's warm, open, and conversational style.

The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth*** As a fan of  PBS' Call the Midwife I'd been interested in reading this book for a while. I really enjoyed this book even more than I thought I would. It was neat to read about the stories that inspired the episodes. It reads almost conversationally and sometimes the author made remarks that seemed to need statistics to support them, but overall it was an interesting read because I was interested in the subject. I became endeared to the nuns as well as some of the people Nurse Lee treated such as Mrs. Jenkins and Conchita and Len and their twenty-five children!!! I especially was fascinated by the smog chapter, as I'd listened to a whole What You Missed in History Class podcast episode on the London smog situation during that time. Mary's story was heart breaking in every way and gives a look into the horrific state of prostitution at that time. The one chapter I skimmed was Cable Street because it went into more detail than I could handle. But overall, if you are someone who is interested in this topic and/or the show, it would be a great read.

Design Mom: How to Live with Kids: A Room by Room Guide by Gabrielle Stanley Blair***** Thoughtful advice about living in a home with kids that has beauty and function. Loved the entry way, the family office, and kids bedroom sections. Also the "At the Blair House" sidebars. It inspired me to reorganize my living room, the playroom, laundry room, and part of my kitchen!

These Strange Ashes: Is God Still in Charge? by Elisabeth Elliot**** After Elisabeth Elliot's death this year I decided it was time to revisit her writing that has so impacted my life over the years. I chose this book because I couldn't remember any details from it. I got so much more out of this book than when I read it years ago as a teenager. Probably because I could identify with the themes of this memoir of Elliot's first year as a missionary better than I could back then. Elliot spends her first year in mission work living with three other women among the Colorado Indians, seeking to try to put their language on paper. She is faced with her own "crisis of faith" as she seeks to understand why it seemed God led her to "do His will" there yet everything goes absolutely wrong and seemingly pointless.

The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You by Jessica N. Turner** I enjoyed listening to Jessica Turner be interviewed on two different podcasts and was inspired by what she had to say and agreed with her message. However, I did not find her book to be as inspiring as listening to her. I find this to be the case sometimes. I really enjoy a speaker but that doesn't transfer to their writing.

Perhaps this is because the first two sections were devoted to trying to persuade women that making time for their gifts is important. I already whole-heartedly agree with this, so those sections weren't really written for me. I DO think women need to be encouraged in this way though. Turner added this into her book based on the survey results she received because so many women expressed guilt at the idea of pursuing their own talents. The book deals with ideas of self-imposed guilt that women seem to carry with them.

But back to me, honestly I find myself already doing much of the suggestions Turner has to offer. Not that I've got it all together, but maybe this was written more for someone starting out on a journey making time for themselves as opposed to someone who already does. I already make time for myself each morning before my kids get up for personal devotional time and then many afternoons during the week during "rest time" to pursue my writing. Since I've been doing this my kids were born I feel like I've got a good handle on it. And I also already know what I'm passionate about and don't need to brain storm what my interests are.

Also, this books was written from a Christian perspective but I don't think it was necessarily was billed as such. I think it was trying to ride the fence a bit. I think it would have benefitted from a whole chapter on the theology of using and developing one's gifts and going deeper into that from a Christian perspective, or maybe not have any Christian references at all? Not sure. She discusses spiritual disciplines, church, prayer, etc. but doesn't delve deeply into any of that, so not sure if it was necessary. In some ways I feel like the book tried to be a little too broad in some areas.

So all that to say, I don't think I was really the audience for this book. However, if someone has trouble with guilt, wants to pursue some sort of passion and doesn't know where/how to start, this would probably be a good book for them.

Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakeable Peace by Sarah Mackenzie***** This books packs a lot of punch for being so small.

Mackenzie offers spiritual and practical encouragement for the homeschooling mother in this book. I love how she encourages us to "make your own learning and growing a priority, and watch how that impacts the life of your homeschool." She has some wonderful suggestions for ways to find refreshment from choosing a literary mentor to keeping a commonplace book.

I actually changed our approach to our homeschool day this year based on several suggestions Mackenzie makes: loop scheduling and creating margin within the school day. I'd never heard of loop scheduling before Mackenzie explained it and I hope it will help us in a very practical way this year. Also, although I'm great at creating margin in our week and weekends, I'd actually not considered it for within our day. So now I am planning for more time that it actually take to complete tasks, to help insure I don't "steamroll" my kids with an eye to simply check things off the list, but slow down and savor learning.

A must-read for any homeschooling parent!

50 Women Every Christian Should Know: Learning from Heroines of the Faith by Michelle DeRusha**** A great overview of the lives of Christian women and their contributions to the world over the years. As one who has read a TON of biographies of Christian women since childhood, I was happy to discover many "new to me" women in this book. Each chapter is about three pages long and is a brief look into the woman's life, struggles, and legacy. I love that she covers Catholics, Protestants, and those who would not fall into either category. I discovered the lives of many women I've heard of--and even seen paintings of--but did no know their stories, like Catherine of Siena and Teresa of Avila. And I've been inspired to read more detailed biographies on Dorothy Sayers and Flannery O'Connor.

For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker**** This was my first book by Hatmaker and I found it hilarious and spot-on in it's critique of many things one finds in Christian "culture." I literally found myself laughing out loud. The thank-you note section was always particularly hilarious.


If I had to pick, Teaching from Rest was my favorite non-fiction book of the year. What was yours?